Daines blocks nomination of lawyer who would be first Indigenous federal judge in Montana - TAI News
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Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks ranking member Sen. Steve Daines, R-Montana, speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) has blocked the confirmation of a lawyer who would have been the first Native American federal judge from Montana.

President Joe Biden nominated Danna Jackson, the tribal attorney for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and a Kootenai descendant who grew up on the Flathead Reservation, for a judgeship on the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana in April. 

Daines was reported not to have submitted a so-called blue slip, the form customarily required from senators to move forward the nomination of a district court nominee from their state. A spokesperson for Daines told the Associated Press that the senator had blocked Jackson’s confirmation because he was not consulted before Biden nominated her.

However, the White House says, Daines’ staff interviewed Jackson before her nomination, and Daines himself chose not to meet with her. 

“This claimed lack of consultation seems to be little more than pretext, and it’s shameful that Senator Daines is depriving Montana of the talents of a principled, fair, and impartial jurist like Danna Jackson,” deputy White House press secretary Andrew Bates told the AP.

Jackson previously served as senior counsel to the director of the Bureau of Land Management and as an attorney with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation in Montana, and worked as an assistant U.S. attorney and tribal liaison in the U.S. attorney’s office in Montana. She received her law degree from the University of Montana in 1996. 

Jackson’s nomination was celebrated in a press release by the Native American Rights Fund, the National Congress of American Indians, and the Native American Bar Association. 

“Inclusion of Native Americans in the courts that preside over matters in Montana is critically important to advancing trust in the judicial system and the rule of law. Danna Jackson’s deep experience in Montana in criminal and civil matters and her connections to the communities she has served her whole career will be a great asset to the court,” Matthew Archer-Beck, the president of the National Native American Bar Association, said in the release.

Currently, only four federal judges are Native Americans, according to a report from the American Bar Association.

“Danna Jackson has a long track record of public service, extensive federal legal experience, and is well qualified to be a federal judge,” Native American Rights Fund executive director John Echohawk said. “We commend the Biden Administration’s selection of this historic nominee and exhort her confirmation. She will be a strong addition to the federal judiciary in Montana.

Democratic Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester supported Jackson’s nomination.   

“Danna Jackson has a proven track record of applying the law with fairness and integrity throughout her legal career, and I have no doubt that she’ll bring these high standards to the federal judiciary and District of Montana,” Tester said in a news release after Jackson was nominated in April. “As a born-and-raised Montanan, her extensive experience at every level of Montana’s legal system makes her well qualified to serve our state and I’m looking forward to getting her nomination across the finish line with bipartisan support in the Senate.”

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